Without question, one of the most productive tools in any angler's arsenal is the crankbait. From deep-diving to lipless styles, crankbaits can produce huge limits in various conditions.
Contrary to the misconception that crankbaits are "do nothing" or "cast and crank" lures, how these baits are retrieved dramatically affects their productivity level. Granted, a standard retrieve will attract fish on many occasions, but it is the non-traditional retrieves that will land you a spot on the top of the winner's podium.
There are countless conditions that anglers face every day on the water. The key to success is determining where, why, and how to catch lunker bass. Crankbaits allow you to cover more water and work the entire water column.
In the same way, a Porsche driving at 100mph through a speed trap gets a state trooper fired up, ripping a lipless crankbait through a weed bed is sure to get a reaction from hungry bass.
Bass relate to cover such as weeds for security, relief from the sun, and even for ambushing unsuspecting prey. These underwater gold mines can fill a livewell in a hurry when adequately attacked. Begin your initial attack by making extremely long casts over the submerged vegetation. Using an up-tempo retrieve, bring the bait into the vegetation. When the lure makes contact with the grass or weeds, you should be able to feel it in your rod tip. Try to keep the lure at the upper edge of the weed or grass lines making frequent contact with the vegetation.
The more contact you have with the vegetation, the more likely you will get hung up on the grass or weeds. Do not let this discourage you. In contrast, let this be the primary objective. Attempt to get the bait hung on the vegetation during the retrieve. Once you have been successful in the art of snagging the lure on the vegetation, quickly rip the bait lose. Immediately after getting the bait free, briefly pause your retrieve. This will imitate an injured baitfish and encourage furious strikes.
Fishing a lipless crankbait through thick vegetation is one thing. The ability to throw a bait with two or three extremely sharp treble hooks into a jungle of tree branches, stumps, and laydowns is an entirely different ball game. Getting it to come back out without a snag is becomes a valuable talent.
A great deal of the problems is alleviated by simply choosing the proper lure. Baits with square bills and wide wobbles have better obstacle avoidance. The design of these baits will allow the angler to slowly work the bait through a labyrinth of branches with very minimal snagging. Using a shorter rod will also allow you to make more precision casts. In this situation, reach for a 6' medium or medium-heavy power All Star rod and Pflueger President low profile reel. The short rod and smooth casting reel make it possible to squeeze the lure into very tight spaces.
When approaching an area with thick cover, analyze the area thoroughly to determine the most likely holding area for bass. Once this is established, cast the bait as deep into the cover as possible. Begin your retrieve at a steady pace until the lure approaches an obstacle. Immediately after making contact with the cover, pause your retrieve and allow the bait to float back towards the surface. When the bait has raised high enough to clear the obstacle, begin a very slow retrieve until the bait has passed the cover. You can then increase your retrieve speed to allow the bait to work at a deeper depth. This process can be repeated multiple times through the densest of fish-holding cover.
In different seasons, big bass will relate to the deep-water structure. Often without the proper crankbait, these fish will go untouched. However, when using the right tool for the job, these trophies can be well within reach. The key is selecting a lure designed to run deeper than the actual depth of the water. For example, if the structure is at a depth of 10 feet, use a bait designed to run to a depth of 15- or 20-feet. By doing so, you can crash the bait directly into the structure, causing sound and a change in the cadence that often will result in a thunderous strike from a monster bass.
If you cannot find a crankbait in the style or color you prefer to meet your depth requirements, you can begin to get creative. Adding stick-on weights to the underside of a crankbait will allow the lure to dive deeper. To achieve increased depth, it is often necessary to let the bait sink for 5- to 10-seconds before beginning your retrieve.
When approaching the structure, begin targeting the outer or deeper edges. Slowly work your way towards the shallower portion of the structure. The sound of your trolling motor and other noises in the boat will sometimes cause the bass to move away from you. It is better to push the fish towards a more shallow area on the structure than to push them deeper. Additionally, if your first cast is to the shallow portion of the structure and you should happen to pull a fish from there, any remaining fish will likely become spooked.
By taking the time to learn various crankbait techniques, you are guaranteed to increase your ability to catch fish. Study the depths at which your baits run and the type of wobble they have. The more you know about your crankbaits and how to fish them in different conditions effectively, the happier you will be out on the water.
Until next time, Fish Hard and Fish Often.